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How do Vietnamese students in the US choose a career?

Students have many opportunities to experience to know what they are inclined to, which profession is suitable before choosing a school.

Christina Nguyen (Nguyen Ngoc Trang) is currently a family doctor for CommonSpirit, one of the leading non-profit medical organizations in the US. Christina and her mother and sister moved to the US from Vietnam to settle in Kansas nearly 20 years ago, when she was in high school. Christina’s mother was not fluent in English and did not know much about American society at that time, so Christina’s learning process and work orientation were all her own initiative.

Christina Nguyen is currently a family doctor of CommonSpirit.  Photo: Character provided

Christina Nguyen is currently a family doctor of CommonSpirit. Image: Characters provided

Christina said that although high schools in the US do not have formal career guidance programs, they have many experiences to let students know what career they are suitable for.

At Wichita East School, Kansas, where Christina attended, she attended seminars, university information days and interacted with many people working in different fields. The school also has a career counseling room. Christina used to come to this office to find out information, ask for documents on undergraduate majors.

“The school has many different clubs such as art, business, science… I wanted to major in biology, focus on research, so right from 9th grade, I joined the science club,” Christina said. tell.

With clear goals, Christina took the AP Chemistry class (advanced Chemistry class) and got a maximum score of 5 on the exam. With this score, when she went to university, she did not have to take General Chemistry class (Basic Chemistry) but could enter a higher class.

The Vietnamese-born doctor said that, in the US, students who want to pursue an education have many ways to learn more about the university level. Christina was a member of Upward Bound College Prepatory, a government program that helps students prepare for college.

While participating in this program, she lived in a university dormitory for a summer month. During that time, Christina took summer classes, participated in activities, and visited several schools. These experiences help Christina assess her suitability for the university environment.

She also took the opportunity to visit the doctor’s office; register for an apprenticeship (internship) to gain more experience.

That day, Christina was guided by a master’s degree in biology, working for the city’s water plant. After two summer months, Christina was paid $3,000 and gained more knowledge in the field of biology. Those are important experiences in her college application and scholarship application later.

“Seeing what program is useful, any club that supports my industry, I jump in, with the desire to take advantage of the opportunity to learn,” said Dr. Christina.

Once she has determined the major, Christina selects the prestigious schools. She chose Creighton University, a school with strengths in medicine. Medical schools in the US require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, pass qualifying classes and take a standardized entrance exam. Graduating with honors, Christina wanted to become a doctor, so she enrolled in medical school and residency training at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Christina (left) on her high school graduation day in 2008. Photo: Supplied by Characters

Dr. Christina (left) on her high school graduation day in 2008. Photo: Characters provided

According to Christina, each family will have different orientations for their children in choosing a career or profession. American society is multicultural, racial and has many different classes. Many parents let their children choose freely, but there are also well-to-do American families who still closely guide their children’s careers. Asian parents, especially India, China and Vietnam, are also often interested in and have a lot of influence on what professions their children study.

Having a daughter at an age in need of career guidance, Professor Nguyen Thanh Liem, head of the Department of Finance and Accounting, Westfield State University, Massachusetts, wants her child to follow medicine to become a doctor. This field of study is difficult, but in return, it will ensure a stable future for her.

Nguyen Nam Huyen (SeSe), Professor Liem’s ​​daughter, is a good student, twice being over-educated. SeSe is good at all subjects but loves and excels in Biology. A high school valedictorian, SeSe received a full scholarship to Connecticut State University at the age of 16.

Professor Liem said that experts at the school counseling office provide career guidance to students based on the results of the personality and interest test toolkit. SeSe used to do a number of tests to discover their own abilities and measure their suitability for professions.

“The results show that SeSe can study doctors or other fields of research,” said Professor Liem, now in Avon City, Connecticut.

After studying for a semester, SeSe realized that she was not interested in the original orientation and decided to change to Environmental Science. However, this industry takes a long time to learn, and the salary is not high. Listening to her father’s analysis, the female student switched to Economics and Statistical Probability, adding a minor major in Mathematics.

SeSe (right) won a PhD scholarship in Finance, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) at the age of 19.  The female student plans to follow the path of research and become a professor like her father.  Photo: Character provided

SeSe (right) won a PhD scholarship in Finance, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) at the age of 19. The female student plans to follow the path of research and become a professor like her father. Image: Characters provided

According to Professor Liem, schools in the US do not require students to choose a major right away. After more than a year of studying the basic subjects, if they like any subject, students will focus on going deeper. It is also a time to help them determine which field they really fit in.

He added that, like in high school, universities also have advisors. In addition to a team of professional consultants, most professors are also involved in advising students in their respective fields. At Westfield State University, Professor Liem also serves as an advisor for freshmen to choose subjects and determine career paths.

For example, professors, students who like journalism are advised to choose some related subjects such as international relations, political studies… In the first semester, if you are no longer interested in this field but interested in international relations. More realistically, students will choose additional subjects for that subject in the next term to “test”, before closing the major.

In the case of SeSe, Professor Liem shared, thanks to the early adjustment, her daughter has chosen a favorite major and developed her abilities. SeSe attended college for three years and graduated at the age of 19.

On February 17, when she had just turned a new age, a Vietnamese-born female student was announced that she had won a PhD scholarship in Finance, Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) – part of the Ivy League group. Journal US News & World Report ranked first in the field of Finance. SeSe has a goal of becoming a finance professor like her father.

From personal experience, Dr. Christina advises medical students in the US to have a clear path. Unlike some countries, medical students in the US have to go through four years of university before that. These four years are still a period of formation and orientation for them.

“A four-year university degree in the US today is often not enough because most fields of study require students to continue to study for a master’s, doctoral degree or have a professional degree or certificate to work,” said Dr. Christina said.


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